Airlines Face Mass Labor Shortages

Published: 07-12-2021
How will labor shortages affect flight schedules?

The United States is open for business. Although the country hasn’t completely shed all its COVID restrictions, the economy is picking back up, and air travel is almost back to its numbers from 2019 before the pandemic.

Unfortunately, airlines weren’t ready for a sudden surge of passengers and have had to cancel and reschedule numerous flights.

Labor Shortage?

The largest factor for the increase in post-COVID flight cancellations and delays is a labor shortage, according to ABC News. The aviation industry complained about a shortage of pilots before the pandemic, and the pressures of that alleged shortage are coming back now.

Many pilots left the workforce during the worst parts of the pandemic when travel came to a halt. But now that demand has resumed, so has the need for more pilots.

For the pilots that went on leave, they are now returning but still require additional training before they can resume flying.

Airlines are not only lacking pilots, but other crew members as well. This includes forward-facing staff that have to deal with passengers who are none too happy to hear that their flight has been canceled.

While the passengers are unhappy, the understaffed airline employees can’t be pleased either.

Cancellations and Delay Numbers

According to flight tracking site, airlines made the following number of cancellations and delays in June:

Southwest – 2,687 cancellations; 34,250 delays

United – 189 cancellations; 8,440 delays

Delta – 106 cancellations; 11,057 delays

American – 2,423 cancellations; 20,418 delays

What About the Bailouts?

The United States federal government did supply airlines with $54 billion in aid to cover payroll. This was meant to keep people employed during the pandemic, and the funds should have mitigated the initial shortages as we return to a fully-functioning economy.

Although airlines that took the funds were not allowed to layoff or furlough workers, they did perform buyouts, and many employees simply retired.

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